And it's a contested race, and in situations like that, we always try to endorse a full slate.
This fall, it was, to put it mildly, a challenge.
It's disturbing that we don't have three strong progressive candidates with experience and qualifications to oversee the San Francisco Unified School District. But it seems to be increasingly difficult to find people who want to — and can afford to — devote the time to what's really a 40-hour-a-week position that pays $500 a month. The part-time school board is an anachronism, a creature of a very different economic and social era. With the future of the next generation of San Franciscans at stake, it's time to make the School Board a full-time job and pay the members a decent salary so that more parents and progressive education advocates can get involved in one of the most important political jobs in the city.
That said, we've chosen the best of the available candidates. It's a mixed group, made up of people who don't support each other and aren't part of anyone's slate. But on balance, they offer the best choices for the job.
This is not a time when the board needs radical change. Under Superintendent Carlos Garcia, the local public schools are making huge strides. Test scores are up, enrollment is increasing, and San Francisco is, by any rational measure, the best big-city public school district in California. We give considerable credit for that to the progressives on the board who got rid of the irascible, secretive, and hostile former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and replaced her with Garcia. He's brought stability and improvement to the district, and is implementing a long-term plan to bring all the schools up to the highest levels and go after the stubborn achievement gap.
Yet any superintendent and any public agency needs effective oversight. One of the problems with the district under Ackerman was the blind support she got from school board members who hired her; it was almost as if her allies on the board were unable to see the damage she was doing and unable to hold her accountable.
Our choices reflect the need for stability — and independence. We are under no illusions — none of our candidates are perfect. But as a group, we believe they can work to preserve what the district is doing right and improve on policies that aren't working.
Kim-Shree Maufas has been a staunch progressive on the board. She got into a little trouble last year when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that she'd been using a school district credit card for personal expenses. That's not a great move, but she never actually took public money since she paid back the district. Maufas said she thought she could use the card as long as she reimbursed the district for her own expenses; the rules are now clear and she's had no problems since. We don't consider this a significant enough failure in judgment to prevent her from continuing to do what she's been doing: serving as an advocate on the board for low-income kids and teachers.
Maufas is a big supporter of restorative justice and is working for ways to reduce suspensions and expulsions. She wants to make sure advanced placement and honors classes are open to anyone who can handle the coursework. She supports the new school assignment process (as do all the major candidates), although she acknowledges that there are some potential problems. She told us she thinks the district should go back to the voters for a parcel tax to supplement existing funding for the schools.
Margaret Brodkin is a lightening rod. In fact, much of the discussion around this election seems to focus on Brodkin. Since she entered the race, she's eclipsed all the other issues, and there's been a nasty whisper campaign designed to keep her off the board.
We've had our issues with Brodkin.